CHICAGO - At Stepco Corp., officials are determined to win back injection molding business that has moved overseas.
``We had to ask ourselves, `What can we do to compete with Asian companies?' '' said Bill Morici, president of the Chicago-based injection molding firm. ``Our proprietary manufacturing process will yield the same cost of products that [original equipment manufacturers] are currently purchasing in Asia.''
During the past year the company has added seven JSW injection presses and moved to a cellular manufacturing system, where one operator can handle three or four machines.
The company has invested $2 million in its new manufacturing layout, all in the past six months.
``Domestic OEMs who are building manufacturing locations in Asia, they're doing that to reduce overall costs,'' he said. ``With our structure, OEMs will reap the same cost as if they were doing the molding themselves. But this will apply to OEMs that are larger-volume molders.''
Looking at numbers from the past few years for the 53-year-old firm shows its sales have dwindled from $27 million.
``We downsized to about $18 million in sales,'' he said, explaining that the firm's strategy includes building on its strength in the automotive sector and shying away from the telecommunications and consumer electronics markets it previously served.
``When I look at the automotive business, it's not going anywhere. Why not stick with something that we know is going to be here?''
The new JSW presses have clamping forces of 80-110 tons. The firm has a total of 36 machines in its 65,000-square-foot facility.
``The slower economy yields a lot of opportunity for manufacturing,'' Morici said.
``We have to look at what's brought us into this. We can get better by looking at history. We should learn what not to do, continue to get better, continue to offer solutions that will drive cost out.''
The firm expects sales to increase 60 percent this year, Morici said. Stepco currently employs 80.